Blanch asparagus briefly in boiling water; drain well. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the bread cubes into a buttered 2-quart casserole. Scatter half of the asparagus over the bread. Top with another 1 1/2 cups of bread cubes. Cover with the 1 1/2 cups diced ham. Top with another 1 1/2 cups bread cubes then layer remaining asparagus over that. Cover asparagus layer with remaining 1 1/2 cups bread cubes. Whisk together the eggs and milk; season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over the strata. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight to cook and serve the next morning. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with a Mornay Sauce or Spicy Cheese Sauce.
SPICY CHEESE SAUCE
This spicy cheese sauce would be wonderful on cauliflower or other vegetables, or try serving it with a brunch strata or quiche.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
hot pepper sauce, to taste
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; stir in flour and mustard until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Do not let mixture brown. Gradually add milk; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened and boiling. Boil 1 minute. Add cheese and continue stirring until cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce.